Harvard played a good Princeton football team on even terms last Saturday and lost by the margin of one after-touchdown conversion, 16-14.
The defeat set the varsity's Ivy League record back to 2-3 (3-4 overall), but neither the Crimson squad nor the Harvard partisans among the game's 35,000 spectators had anything to be ashamed of in connection with this performance.
On defense the varsity did quite a capable job of containing the exceptionally fine runners in the Princeton backfield, despite the unfamiliarity of the Tigers' single-wing attack. Its tackling was unusually sharp, and its guarding against passes was better than in some previous games.
The Crimson defenders did a lot of last-minute shifting around along the line of scrimmage, and this seemed to confuse their opponents considerably. One way or another, they completely stopped the Tigers on all line-plunge attempts; and they rendered conspicuously ineffective Princeton's "fullback-spin" series, which had proved so devastating in last year's game.
Tigers Strong on End Runs
In addition, the winners gained very little on their reverses to the weak-side; and they completed just five passes, good for a total of 46 yards. It was only around the strong-side end that the Tigers were able to make good yardage; but they capitalized on this advantage to the fullest possible extent.
The Crimson ends were playing wide against these runs, and often managed to turn them inside. But the Princeton tailbacks, Hugh "the Great" Scott and John "Silky" Sullivan, usually managed to get six to ten yards into the Crimson secondary before being brought down. They were both fast and tricky runners; and they were greatly assisted by the blocking of Capt. Fred Tiley and quarterback Mike Ippolito.
Offensively, it was a rather strange game for the varsity. Its "bread and butter" plays--the power plays over tackle and the "dives" into the middle of the opposing line--brought very little yardage; and time and again in crucial situations all seemed to depend on the ability of quarterback Charlie Ravenel to come up with a tricky maneuvre which Princeton would not expect.
Ravenel called a very imaginative game indeed, but there can be no doubt that the Crimson's attack was somewhat crippled by the ineffectiveness of its basic running plays. The Tigers operated from behind two main defensive alignments (a 6-2-3 and a 5-3-3), both of which stopped Crimson line thrusts just as effectively as the varsity turned back similar Princeton plays.
The varsity did a good deal of passing, and with more frequent success than in other recent games. Princeton's pass defense seemed about as weak as had been advertised, and Crimson receivers were getting free quite often. Unfortunately, though, Ravenel made just enough inaccurate tosses to permit three interceptions; and each one of these ended a hitherto promising first-half drive.
The varsity scored first with a little more than ten minutes gone in the opening quarter. It started from its own 43 yard-line, and in 14 plays moved to the Princeton 3. Here, on fourth down, Ravenel called a flashy double-reverse which concluded with halfback Tom Lawson going unmolested into the enemy end-zone. Ravenel and right-end Stu Hershon supplied key blocks along the way.
But perhaps the most crucial play of the whole afternoon occurred in the very next series of downs. The Crimson had moved the ball out from its 22 to its 46, when Ravenel began a fatal run to his left end. Caught out there, he attempted to pitch back to Larry Repsher.
The ball went astray and Repsher raced after it. He was, however, cleanly tackled by a Princeton end--a flagrantly illegal maneuvre that permitted the Tigers to recover the fumble. 35,000 paying customers saw this, but the referees apparently did not. At any rate, the Tigers were awarded possession, and three plays later they had their second touchdown. This conversion (like the first one) they made on a reverse pass.
In the second half, the varsity also scored a second touchdown. But Ravenel failed by a yard to make the conversion on a quarterback sneak. And from here on, the Princeton defense held firm....